Army Pilots Get Surprise Three-Year Hitch Extensions


Army pilots are fighting mad after being told they will have to serve three years longer than they thought they’d signed up to stay in. According to CNN the Army says about 600 officers, many of them pilots and many of them West Point grads, are affected by an “error” in the administration of a program that allows new officers more control of where they are deployed. “Our overall goal to correct this issue is to provide predictability and stability for our soldiers while maintaining readiness across our force,” said Lt. Gen. Douglas Stitt, the head of Army personnel. But it appears the affected officers will still have to serve their extended hitches and it’s causing a lot of issues. It’s also likely that a lot of the affected pilots were headed to civilian aviation jobs.

In a letter to Congress, dozens of Army pilots claimed they were “misled” about their obligation when they became active-duty members. “While I have cherished my time as a member of this incredible Army, I am looking forward to a civilian career that may now be upended due to the gross mismanagement of my Active Duty Service Obligation,” one pilot said in the letter to Congress. The issue has also affected the officers’ spouses, some of whom had taken jobs based on their anticipated ability to decide where they were going to be living.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. You’re in the Army now
    You’re not behind a plow
    You’ll never get rich
    A diggin’ a ditch
    You’re in the Army now.

  2. In the reserves, you know you can be called up any time. But active duty folks, if they were told a firm discharge date, even if it was an administrative error, the original date should be honored. I’m assuming they would then still have an inactive reserve commitment maybe. But to take these folks and extend them 3 years,is taking good professionals who have been committed to honoring their service obligation, and instead now turn them into a bunch of bad, bad less productive attitude folks. If the Army screwed it up, then the Army needs to bite the bullet in this case.

    • Most folks who go into military service don’t know that they incur a 6 year service commitment period … some active and some inactive. During the inactive reserve period, they could be reactivated. And if you do a 20 year career, you’re in for 30 AND callable after that up to a certain age … so two different ways depending upon the need. I suspect that the Army is SO short of people that this is a back door method of slowing the departures of people from Service? There’s more to THIS story than meets the eye, IMHO. If these people have a written contract, I think we’ll be hearing of lawsuits soon.

      • I was in the Army for more than 25 years. Most DO know, and it’s more like 8 years total, active/reserve.
        I am not sure what you are talking about “if you do 20, you are in for 30″… Never heard anything like that one.

        As far as a “firm” discharge date, there’s no such thing. 🙂
        Do you know what ETS stands for? ESTIMATED Time of Separation.

        • Estimated? Funny how that only works one-way.

          If you signed up for 4 years and stopped showing up after 2, just tell them that you “estimated” that you’d give them the full four.

          Or, would you be AWOL?

        • The problem is that if the potential recruits change the expected deal from needs created by unexpected circumstances due to foreign aggression to needs created by bureaucratic failures then recruitment is going to be much harder and expensive.
          Besides that, is this really the standard of ethical behavior our military is supposed to set as the example?

  3. Having faced a DEROS extension, I feel the pain, stress, frustration, and disappointment.

    • An “error in the application” on their part becomes a fault on your part. You’re then the local dirt bag.

  4. “The issue has also affected the officers’ spouses”

    The Navy informed me that if they had wanted me to get married they would have put a woman in my seabag.

  5. The Army, and other departments, have pulled this sort of nonsense on all sorts of members. They missed my paycheck and lost lots of paperwork on different occasions. I’ve met soldiers cheated on contracts and bonuses many times. I know an army aviator whose training flight crash was later reclassified as a non military injury to vastly reduce his benefits (his bird was hit by parts from another he was in formation with). In the nineties, the medical school scholarship recipients were all ambushed with a retroactive change in policy. Historically, doctors did their residency as part of their service requirements, but suddenly, these doctors were told to go do their residency as civilians and report for duty years later to do their obligation.

    It doesn’t really matter what the contracts say in the end. I’ve never heard of anyone winning. Congress blames the people they are supposed to be overseeing, and voters do not punish them. I quit voting a few years ago. My new plan is to go vote against incumbents with prejudice until we see a return to reasonable and competent government.

  6. Maybe the Army brass knows they’ll need all those pilots soon when a new Asian “conflict” begins?

  7. “Asian”? Could be Europe, Asia or Africa…

    When I got my commission in the Army, my commitment was 6 years, with at least 2 years active and the rest in the active reserves. While on active duty, I was extended in a combat zone for the remainder of my active service time (not at my request). When you agree to serve, you get to do whatever the service needs for you to do.

    • Yep … that’s what I said above. I did 21 in the USAF, made my 30 year point inactive and then made the cutoff age … I THINK it’s 60 as enlisted? So I’m ‘free’ … although I could foresee anyone drawing retirement pay being recalled to serve a “behind the front” need freeing up active duty and any reserves to get into active service. I’d go do that voluntarily, in fact, were the need serious enough. MAYBE it’d be better to send the old guys forward because they’re old, grumpy and gonna take it out on the bad guys 🙂

    • I was extended also due to a conflict, but isn’t that besides the point? Everyone who takes the oath should really understand that. That’s not what’s going on here. Not even close.
      The mix up here is a result of incompetence, careerism, or both. These soldiers got told one thing, and they got another. There is, or was, a retention or recruiting problem because the Army isn’t doing things right, so they jerked these officers around. The cost isn’t just going to be to the officers either. There’s going to be big costs that are hard to identify, but they will ripple through the system over time.
      A lot of desk drivers are skating on their responsibilities today, and leaving a mess for the people coming after them.

  8. Also…This could be a prelude to war. A year before the first Gulf War the military, using national media, recruited medical personnel at all levels into the reserves. They paid big incentives to those who took the signed on. They knew the war with Sadam, regarding Kuwait, was imminent. Makes me wonder if the Army is prepping for an event just before the general election.

    As a taxpayer I am happy to see the ARMY enforce an agreement. A West Point education plus an expensive aviation education costs (we the people) a bunch of green backs.

  9. Not sure what obligation these current pilots signed but that will get worked out over the next couple of months.

    I learned about the unpredictability of military service commitments in 1970.

    In the 60s I was USAF and it was 4 years active and 2 years inactive reserve. After final discharge I attended Medical School on my own (only veteran in the class) and sometime in the first couple of weeks we had a visit from a US armed forces physician that talked to the class about military medicine and the Doctors’ Draft also called the Berry Plan.

    During that lecture I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that there was a separate Doctor draft and that after graduation any of us could be drafted as MDs until our 51st birthday. If I remember correctly my prior service would not excuse me from that separate draft. Thankfully the Doctor draft went away in 1973.